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‘Journey’ Ends for Hayfield

Hawks fall in Virginia AAA state semifinals, finish season at 21-8.

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Hayfield junior Rayshawn Rigans finished with four points and a team-high six assists in a Virginia AAA quarterfinal round loss to Petersburg last Friday in Richmond.

Rayshawn Rigans denied its impact. Coach Ron Palmer dusted off a game plan to stop it. T.J. Wilson relished the challenge that Petersburg’s height -- the Wave had one 6-foot-6 starter and another at 6-9 -- presented.

Still, none of that stopped Petersburg from rolling over the Hawks, 59-48, in the Virginia AAA state quarterfinals at Virginia Commonwealth’s Siegel Center Friday, March 6.

Petersburg senior Cadarian Raines, that 6-9 starter and a Virginia Tech-recruit, posted three blocks while altering countless other shots. Du’Vaughn Maxwell, a 6-5 reserve for Petersburg, added three more blocks.

Furthermore, Petersburg held a 30-24 edge in rebounds, and held Hayfield to 32.4-percent shooting in the second half.

But Rigans, who finished with four points and a team-best six assists, denied that there was anything different in Hayfield’s approach.

“We don’t really look at it like [Raines] is 6-9,” Rigans said. “He laces his shoes up just like I lace mine up.”

“We played just as good as them,” said Hayfield’s Laurent Newsome, who at 6-6 was the team’s best defense against Raines and Maxwell. “I felt that we kind of ran out of gas with the lack of height.”

The loss ended Hayfield’s season-long reclamation project, which helped them avenge a first-round exit from last year’s Patriot District tournament, as well as a six-win season two years ago. This year the Hawks were 21-8.

<b>STARTING AFTER</b> the region title game on Tuesday, March 3, when Hayfield lost for the third time this season to T.C. Williams, Palmer, 70, began to speak of the team’s “journey” this season, how “we’re gonna get there, and when we do, we’re going to be handling people of this class,” Palmer said.

It happened again following the state-level loss. Palmer has viewed this entire postseason experience as not only a chance to play with a bit of the house’s money, but also as an opportunity to play against some of the state’s most talented teams and in some of the state’s toughest environments.

Both were achieved against Petersburg. Located just outside of Richmond, the Siegel Center became more of a home game than a neutral site, although teams that win their region are often seeded closer to home.

Wilson, who scored eight points and tied for the team lead with four steals, didn’t shy away from the environment. He enjoyed it.

“I like playing in front of a big crowd and I like playing with adversity,” said Wilson, who, along with Newsome, will be lost to graduation. “I like playing when the home crowd is saying things to us, they’re loud and they outnumber us. A lot of people think it’s tough but I just like it.”

Palmer, who won 19 district titles, eight region crowns and a state and national title at Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California, “played against big people before.” So Palmer installed an offense that he used with which to frustrate bigger opponents.

Hayfield started the game executing the stall-to-score offense perfectly and staying within four or five points until early in the fourth quarter, when a series of thunderous Petersburg dunks brought the crowd to its feet, and gave the Wave the final margin it needed.

“In the fourth quarter we kind of broke down a little bit and we kinda left the game plan,” Wilson said. “But I think we still surprised a lot of people even though we didn’t get the ‘W.’”